Local guides

Where to eat in Whitstable
Published 15 May 2024

Cool, trendy Whitstable, with its pretty beach huts, fishermen’s cottages and working harbour, remains a magical spot. The Sportsman in nearby Seasalter established a beachhead almost 25 years ago, and Stephen Harris’s pioneering produce-first approach is still well worth the pilgrimage, but a table here requires planning ahead. For a more spur of the moment trip there are plenty of places to enjoy.

A thriving café culture means you’re never far from a good pit stop for a refuel. The vote for the best coffee in town goes to the delightful, Scandi-style Blueprint Coffee & Books on Oxford Street. But if you are after something more with your coffee, there’s Grain & Hearth, a bakery and café, also on Oxford Street, where the coffee is good and there are sourdough croissants, viennoiserie, grilled cheese toasties or shakshouka eggs to be had. Do pick up a sourdough loaf to take home, and it’s worth checking out their occasional sourdough workshops, too. Many locals still favour breakfast at the quirky kid-and-dog-friendly Windy Corner Stores on the corner of Nelson Road and Island Wall where a sausage sandwich, creamy mushrooms on toast, or a full English will hit the spot. In addition, lunch brings creamy butterbean and leek soup or a steak, mushroom and thyme pie. More central (on Harbour Street) is RuLu’s – Deli/Kitchen/Wine, open for breakfast and simple one-dish lunches of, say, whole crevettes with chilli and garlic sauce, or short rib and Parmesan gnocchi. Good coffee and cakes fill the gaps – the Portuguese custard tarts are recommended.

Where to eat in Whitstable
Credit: Samphire

Samphire, like everywhere in town, keeps things local and seasonal, with local fish, meat and seasonal vegetables appearing in dishes such as the popular fish pie or dry-aged porterhouse with beef fat salsa verde. Booking is as essential for the good-value set-lunch and weekend brunch as it is for dinner. Or try Harbour Street Tapas, a Med-inspired suntrap whose plate glass windows invite envious peeks from passers-by. Also on Harbour Street, tucked behind a pillar and painted midnight blue, it’s easy to walk past The Larder, Harbour Street’s hidden gem. The narrow little café/deli is noted for good coffee and it’s grilled cheese sourdough sandwiches - try the kim’cheese: Montgomery Cheddar with red onion and kimchi. In addition, a few shelves are stocked with beautiful produce that make good foodie presents.

Where to eat in Whitstable
Credit: Wheelers Oyster Bar

Visitors and locals alike are drawn to the iconic, pink-and-blue painted Wheelers Oyster Bar, doyenne of the local dining scene. Steeped in history, it dates from 1856, and to this day serves fish and seafood fresh from the boat. A bring-your own-affair, don’t forget to nip over the road to The Offy for a bottle of wine that might match lobster lasagne with leek, wild garlic and crab ragout, lobster sauce, buttered fine beans, peas, aged parmesan, girolle mushrooms.

A stroll to the end of Harbour Steet will lead to Porto Wine Bar – the place for a deep dive into an extensive wine list that majors on Portugal, backed up by sharing platters of meat and cheese. And don’t miss the gorgeous, fire-warmed all-weather garden at the back.

Where to eat in Whitstable
Credit: Sooshi Sushi

Head to the harbour complex and the South Quay Shed for the makings of a perfect picnic or home takeaway fix. Sooshi Sushi offers classic sushi rolls, say salmon and avocado maki or spicy tuna maki with sriracha mayo and crispy onions, alongside sashimi of tuna or salmon served with sesame, soy and ginger dressing and spring onion, all freshly made that day. Poké bowls are made to order and there’s a daily specials board, too. Next door, the hugely likeable Rad Burger flies the flag for all things burger. The crowd-pleasing menu canters through chicken, beef or vegetarian versions but local spies rate the truffle beef burger and the rosemary fries as a cut above.

It's well worth seeking out a more long-standing local favourite. David Brown Deli is Whitstable’s best kept secret, tucked away in portacabins at the entrance to the South East Caravan Centre on Belmont Road. The menu changes daily with dishes such as smoked haddock chowder, coq au vin, or ham hock with lentils making the perfect takeaway meal.

Where to eat in Whitstable
Credit: Ossie's Best Fish & Chips

Out Tankerton Slopes way, JoJo’s Mediterranean tapas is served with a helping of North Sea views. And of course, no trip to the seaside is complete without proper fish and chips. Ossie’s Best Fish & Chips, one block back from Tankerton Slopes, deals in fresh as it comes fish to eat in or takeaway. As does the family run VC Jones in Harbour Street, established in 1962 and one of the last fish and chip shops in the south of England to fry in beef dripping.

Fancy an ice cream? Sadly, Harbour Street’s Sundae Sundae has closed, but the popular Kent-based Morelli's Gelato has filled the gap with a cafe (plus a little courtyard) at the High Street end of Harbour Street, offering a wide range of flavours (made fresh each day) to eat in or takeaway.